Posted 05.22.2015 | by AMRA


Rising health care costs threaten to strain federal, state, and family budgets. Can helping patients become more proactive in their health care help to contain costs? Knight et al. [Mindfulness] investigated whether MBSR produces long-term health cost savings through stress reduction and enhanced personal responsibility for well-being.

The researchers examined physician visit and laboratory utilization data for 1,730 Canadians (75% female, mean age = 45) who had taken an MBSR course at a Toronto health center. Data was obtained from the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) administrative database.

MBSR participant healthcare utilization was compared with similar utilization data from three comparison cohorts also drawn from the OHIP database and matched on variables such as age, sex, illness severity and complexity of care. The data were analyzed at one and two years prior to MBSR involvement and at one and two years after participation.

MBSR participants were heavy service utilizers prior to starting MBSR, generating more than twice the costs and nearly twice the medical visits of the matched comparison groups. In the year after MBSR, participants showed a decrease in costs (between $244 to $279 per person), physician visits, and laboratory usage, while the cost for the comparison groups increased ($3 to $18 per person). Most of these differences vanished when the data were analyzed for the full two years after MBSR, except for slightly lower laboratory utilization in the MBSR group.

The study shows decreased healthcare utilization costs in the first year after people participate in MBSR. The study is limited by a lack of random assignment and the non-inclusion of data for inpatient stays, emergency room visits, and medication.


Knight, R. W., Bean, J., Wilton, A. S., & Lin, E. (2015). Cost-Effectiveness of the mindfulness-based stress reduction methodology. Mindfulness.

[Link to abstract]